Printer’s Devil Court – Susan Hill

510xUaXhN0L._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_On a dark November evening at the turn of the century, three medical students make an unholy pact.  For the young Hugh Meredith, it is the beginning of a nightmare that will pursue him to the grave – and perhaps beyond.

In the cellar of their narrow lodging house in Printer’s Devil court, and in a subterranean annex of the hospital, they begin to experiment with the boundaries that separate the living from the dead, witnessing events both extraordinary and terrifying.

Years later, when Hugh must return to Printer’s Devil Court and face his demons, strange events take clear that his youthful actions have had consequences worse than anything he could have imagined.

It’s the time of year when the nights start to close in and that makes it perfect for a traditional ghost story, especially a macabre tale in the Victorian style of M.R. James.

I have a slinky hardback copy of this book with the evocative and embossed dust jacket that feels pleasingly tactile. Once I removed the dust jacket, the black cover underneath was perfect for the story and was a nice mirror to the black and white illustrations inside which are a nice touch and evoke the types of storytelling that these days has fallen out of favour.

I’ve always found the immediacy of any story is linked with the touch (and smell) of a book – one of the many reasons why I avoid e-readers – is another reason why I found the story more effective, not in the form of scariness though.  This book isn’t scary but to feel disappointed by that omission is, I believe to miss the point.

The book harks back to the days of the classic ghost story and the tale has the feel of its older predecessors, its sparse and wonderfully Gothic and in that respect it doesn’t have an effect on the modern audience that is would have done back then.  Much in the same way that A Christmas Carol or Casting the Runes don’t inspire dread these days, the pseudo science of the book won’t take in the reader but does provide a pleasantly eerie idea from a less advanced time.

The story itself is short and neat with plenty of familiar nods to classic genre fare; dubious medical practises, fog enshrouded set pieces and Hill has chosen to leave some questions unanswered which is fine, a story works well when there are parts to fill in with one’s imagination.  The characters feel a little under developed for my taste, I could have done with a little more about them not to mention their original motivations but it isn’t a major drawback.

Printer’s Devil Court doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of woman in black, I enjoyed it though, whilst there is a sinister thought or two to be had on the crazy minds of humans, I find it more of a tribute to the type of stories the horror genre is built upon. At 105 pages it’s a tale to be read in a sitting or two, perfect for the small amount of leisure time that the busy month of December helps.  If anything the book is a little too short, another fifty pages would have been enough to give it a little more fleshing out but for what it is it’s a decent buy, just perhaps not at full price.

39 Replies to “Printer’s Devil Court – Susan Hill”

    1. I love reading them at this time of year, in fact it’s probably the only time I go out of my way to read them. Make sure you have a nice glass of port to go with it!

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      1. I think I’ll stick to the Scotch (I find Port too sweet…), but yes, that combo- Xmas, ghost stories and a warming cocktail are just the ticket! I think, having grown up with ‘A Christmas Carol’ and all its iterations as part of the background, I associate this time of year with ghosts and such… interesting.

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        1. It is such a perfect piece of fiction, when I first read it as an adult I was really impressed by its tightness. It’s the perfect platform for loving literature, a good chill in your warm home is always extra special at Christmas.

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  1. It’s funny how that time period is so perfect for ghost stories, and most ghosts seem to be from that time period. Maybe because of the weather or fashion styles. I’ll have to look into this one and now you’ve also put me in the mood for A Christmas Carol.

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    1. A Christmas Carol is always a welcome treat! It really is a wonderful time for setting such stories and nothing beats a good foggy, brooding atmosphere.

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  2. Susan Hill is great for a scare. I’m still trying to envisage how the word slinky can be applied to a hardcover book. If anyone wants me, I’ll be on my shelf, conducting slinkiness experiments with my hardcover books

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    1. It’s not applied in the same way that I wear a slinky black number out to parties, it gets quite drafty when the spring opens and closes.

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            1. The time differences between countries confuses me as much as working over the night shift and being confused over what day it is, in short I am clueless in general.

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                1. My heart’s not in it..so the search must continue, I also require a left lung and another appendix for my necklace, or as I call it my appendices.

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  3. Love the dust cover! I know… don’t judge a book by its cover, yet your review lived up to my perception.
    In terms of a lesser effect on a modern audience goes, how does “The Picture Of Dorian Gray” work out?

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    1. Dorian Gray has the same effect, I enjoyed it and the idea is a little unsettling but these days I think it takes a lot more, especially with all the imaginative ways of murder and such we see on the TV, both fictional and real. I prefer the old school unsettling in terms of literary fare but it can’t have the same impact as the world has changed, it is good to cosy up with though.

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      1. Sigh, well, I enjoy writing from time to time. Oddly enough when I have grammar questions, and want actual examples, I use my Dorian Gray book. I believe Oscar Wilde has held up on this point.

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    1. A story that just gets better with age, it’s also impressive to see Dickens could write something that didn;t sprawl both plot wise and over the page with his eccentric sentence structure.

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  4. Hi, Ste J. I don’t know if Susan Hill published this book recently or farther back in time, but it sounds very, very like the movie (which came out about 1992) called “Flatliners,” in which several graduate students in medicine get together to experiment to achieve some of those “I saw a white light, and went toward it” sort of borderline life-death experiences that people who have nearly died on the operating table say they have. Each of them has an experience of “flatlining,” or dying, and coming back, except I think one student doesn’t make it back or something, and there are consequences. It wouldn’t be the first time a movie pirated from a book or a book from a movie, but they are so close-sounding that I can’t help but wonder if there was some more honest attribution and relationship going on somewhere. Got any ideas?

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    1. Printer’s Devil Court came out in 2014 and actually takes a different turn from Flatliners or should I say an inverse turn to avoid too much in the way of spoilers. PDC has more owing to Frankenstein, I wonder how modern the idea for Flatliners is, in terms of philosophical thought on death.

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  5. I do not enjoy the violent, visceral type of ghost/horror stories and avoid them if I possibly can. However, I don’t mind the old-fashioned type of ghost story – Wilde, M R James and Dickens et al. I try to read A Christmas Carol each Christmas. I might enjoy Susan Hill’s ghost stories – I like her books of short stories ‘A Bit of Singing and Dancing’ and ‘Listening to the Orchestra’.

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    1. Of all the ghost stories of Hill’s that I have read have their emphasis on the chill factor as opposed to anything violent, The Woman in Black is of course my favourite, so much better than the film with its predictable scares. I have read some of Hill’s novellas but not short stories, I must add them to my list.

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        1. This one is on my list as well, books about books are the best. I enjoyed a Pound of Paper by John Baxter but would gladly welcome some more book loving, it just proves we are right to love reading in all its forms.

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            1. I only heard of him when his book was reviewed on the radio, I’m very pleased I did though even if I hadn’t heard of a lot of books he mentioned, it was just great to share in his love.

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                  1. I think the only time that I’ve listened to Radio 5 Live is when Richard puts the football results on when we are driving! I love collecting lists of books to read. The notes pages in my diary are full of book titles (and films and music/songs!)

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                    1. I love lists too, I particularly enjoy those books and films that don’t sound like they appeal but must have for some reason for you to write down and they then blow us away…it’s like learning to trust myself all over again.

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  6. The Woman in Black was indeed creepy (the movie wasn’t bad either). Too bad this one isn’t as scary. The cover looks great though and I guess a tempting 105 pages is worth a try.

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    1. I was a bit disappointed with the movie, the scare seemed pretty predictable, rather than a film based around the jump value it would have been better for it to brood along and then unexpectedly add a jump and then, rather than signpost them so blatantly. As long as you enter into the spirit of a good old fashioned ghost story that is more about atmosphere than chills then it is enjoyable enough and the cover does look good on the shelves as well.

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